It is hard to put into words what we observed Sunday in Baltimore as Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Charlie Batch led the black and gold to an improbable 23-20 win over the Baltimore Ravens.
Perhaps the single best word to use for what we witnessed on Sunday is, “fortitude”.
Batch wasn\’t given a chance this week by most everyone, including myself, to knock off the 9-2 Ravens in their own building, where they had previously won 15 straight games.
Charlie showed us. Man, did he show us.
Batch overcame several obstacles to win on Sunday. In case you didn\’t know it by now, he is the oldest offensive player currently in the league and will turn 38 years old this upcoming week. Wednesday to be exact.
He was also fresh off a loss last week to the Cleveland Browns that featured him going 20-of-34 for 199 yards with 3 interceptions and no touchdowns. The criticism of his play this past week was heavy as you can imagine.
If that wasn\’t enough, Batch also had to overcome the loss of his dog Roxie, who lost her battle with cancer this past week. Talk about a lump in your throat. If you watched the postgame embrace between Batch and Ben Roethlisberger after the kick by Shaun Suisham sailed through the uprights, you can see that all of the emotion had come to a head from not only this past week, but perhaps the last 14 plus seasons as well.
Batch was drafted by the Detroit Lions in the second round of the 1998 NFL Draft out of Eastern Michigan. He lasted only four seasons in Detroit and was sent packing when Lions drafted Joey Harrington. He signed on with the Steelers in 2002 and has been in Pittsburgh ever since as an obscure backup. Sometimes second string, sometimes third string.
Over the years Batch has played very sparingly and his start Sunday against the Ravens was just his ninth in a Steelers uniform. Two of those previous starts had been against Baltimore and he lost both of them. Up until the loss last week to the Browns they were his only loses as a member of the Steelers.
Batch had an up and down performance on Sunday and he certainly wasn\’t aided by his wide receivers, who dropped and fumbled away a few key passes in the game. The veteran was also picked off once and sacked twice in the game in addition.
Following the interception the Steelers defense got the ball back via a turnover. Down 7 points with 9:41 left in the game, Batch and his fortitude went to work. The Steelers quarterback had the team in the end zone in just four plays and the drive culminated with a Batch to Heath Miller touchdown from 7 yards out.
The Steelers defense once again got a stop and the Ravens punted the ball back to Pittsburgh with 6:23 left in a tied game. Batch was far from done at that point even though the offense was forced to start the final drive at their own 15 yard-line.
After a couple of runs by Isaac Redman to start the drive, Batch converted a 3rd down and 7 to Mike Wallace that moved the ball out to the Steelers own 33 yard-line. The next three passes were also complete as well and the last one ended with him being a victim of a late hit by Ravens outside linebacker Paul Kruger. That penalty moved the football to the Ravens 19 yard-line with 1:46 left in the game.
A false start by Maurkice Pouncey followed, but the damage was done at that point. After 3 straight running plays were reeled off to burn some clock, Suisham kicked home the winner from 42 yards out.
On the final two drives Batch was 8-of-8 for 72 yards and a touchdown. That was a treat for all of us to watch, and that includes Roxie, who was likely one of the few that believed Batch would win this game.
Shame on us non-believers, Charlie. We hope you will forgive us.
Oh, and happy birthday too. Your 38 year old fortitude has never looked better.